Saturday, February 26, 2011

Zelda Rubinstein

"I had to do something creative. It was an internal feeling that I was sabotaging myself." ~ Zelda Rubinstein

This woman should have scared the shit out of me.

When I saw my first horror movie ever, POLTERGEIST, she was one of the first examples I ever saw of a character that was creepy, but by no means nasty.

Sylvie and I used to love to run into the horror section of video stores. We'd turn over the boxes and try to find the scariest images and then share the "good ones" with one another. There was a card board cut out of Edward Scissorhands in one and he scared us something FIERCE. But then our mom, a very horror savvy lady, told us that he was the good guy and he only looked scary. From then on, we weren't so quick to write off a creepy individual as a bad guy.

Or gal, in this case. She was a woman who often appeared as a psychic or medium in film and television and had that "other worldly" presence about her. Her Tangina Barrons entered the first installment of the POLTERGEIST franchise as an experienced medium who was no stranger to dealing with dark forces. In the third film, she sacrificed herself to save the young Carrie Anne. Outside of film, she has tirelessly fought for human rights specifically in regards to the equality of little people and the fight against HIV/AIDS. She believed firmly in equality.
She was one of the first celebrity AIDS advocates and attended the first AIDS Project Los Angeles AIDS Walk in 1985.

Standing at 4 feet 3 inches, she was often verbally abused at school and learned at an early age to meet people "head on."

"Little People are societally handicapped. They have about two minutes to present themselves as equals—and if they don’t take advantage of that chance, then people fall back on the common assumption that 'less' is less." ~ Zelda Rubinstein
"Zelda Rubinstein gave up a long and stable career in the medical field as a lab technician in order to strive for something more self-fulfilling as middle age settled in. At the age of 45, the feisty lady gave up the comfort of a stable paycheck and to attempt an acting career, a daunting task for anyone but especially someone of her stature and type. Within a few years, she had beaten the odds and became a major movie celebrity thanks to one terrific showcase in a Steven Spielberg horror classic. In the process she served as an inspiration to all the "little people" working in Hollywood and forced to toil in cruel and demeaning stereotypes.

Born on May 28, 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Zelda was the youngest of three children and the only "little person" in the family. Her childhood and teenage years were decidedly difficult in terms of coping with her "interesting variation," which was caused by a pituitary gland deficiency. With no designs on acting at the time, she went the normal route of college and received a scholarship to study at the University of Pittsburgh. She earned her degree in bacteriology and worked for a number of years as a lab technician in blood banks." ~ Woody Yanders

Zelda gained additional attention and respect, if not popularity (her career suffered for a time as a result), as an early and outspoken HIV/AIDS activist. As the poster mom for AIDS awareness, she valiantly appeared in a series of maternal newspaper/billboard advertisements imploring her gay son to practice safe sex. The series of ads ran from the mid-to-late 1980s.

Many would have told her to count her blessings and keep her mouth shut. To have been able to break into acting with what many would consider to be multiple disadvantages, it would have definitely put her career at risk to speak her mind. At the time, it was incredibly unpopular to speak out about AIDS awareness, but this woman never backed down from a challenge. Despite what the repercussions were to be.

Zelda not only lent her support to the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center—before it was popular for celebrities to support AIDS and LGBT organizations–she volunteered to star in a groundbreaking HIV prevention campaign for us. The image of her on billboards and posters, saying to a shirtless guy holding an umbrella: ‘don’t forget your rubbers,’ is now iconic.” ~Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

She was a fearless woman. Sadly, she passed away early 2010 on January 27th. A couple of months before her death on January 27, 2010, Zelda suffered a heart attack. Complications set in (kidney and lung failure) and she passed away at age 76 in a Los Angeles hospital.

She was a strong, inspiring woman who is very worthy of admiration. Not only is she a horror icon, but, much like many badasses and femme fatales, was a very kind-hearted person. She devoted her fame to helping others. She made unpopular decisions before the rest of the world woke up and saw how popular those decisions really were. In spite of over whelming odds, she fought to follow her dreams and never let anything hold her back.

I'll leave you with her most unforgettable, iconic performance in the role that landed her forever firmly in horror history.

Please enjoy.

~ Jen

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